Washington: The son of a Wisconsin gurdwara shootout victim has appealed to the FBI to include anti-Sikh violence in hate-crime statistics, a demand strongly supported by US lawmakers.
Harpreet Singh Saini, whose mother was one of the six people killed when a white supremacist attacked worshippers at a gurdwara in Wisconsin in August, appeared at a Congressional hearing and asked FBI to track anti-Sikh hate crimes.
"Senators, I came here today to ask the government to give my mother the dignity of being a statistic. The FBI does not track hate crimes against Sikhs. My mother and those shot that day will not even count on a federal form. We cannot solve a problem we refuse to recognise," Saini told lawmakers.
"These are steps that we must take to ensure that we never endure a tragedy like the one in Oak Creek," said Singh, whose mother Paramjit Kaur Saini was tragically shot and killed in Oak Creek on August 5.
The demand for including anti-Sikh violence in hate crime statistics gained momentum after the killing, with several lawmakers also demanding the same.
Federal officials have said that they have started looking into the issue and their decision is expected to be known by mid-October.
"August 5th was a tragic day not only for Sikh Americans, but for all Americans, as is any day extremist hate groups target people of faith with harassment and violence," he said.
In his touching testimony, Singh argued what happened at Oak Creek was not an isolated incident.
"I fear it may happen again if we don`t stand up and do something. I don`t want anyone to suffer what we have suffered. I want to build a world where all people can live, work, and worship in America in peace. Because you see, despite everything, I still believe in America -- American dream," he said.
The gurdwara incident highlighted the question whether to re-examine the categories of religious groups that are listed on the FBI`s hate crimes data collection form -- a document that is used to capture the perpetrator`s motivation and not the victim`s background, conceded Roy Austin, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
"In the next few weeks, the Civil Rights Division and the Community Relations Service will bring together a broad spectrum of religious organisations, including groups representing Sikh Americans, to elicit their views on what information should be collected. Separately, the FBI`s panel of outside subject matter experts will hear from stakeholders," Austin told lawmakers.